So here we are. The election season that has so divided friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers has finally come to an end. But with that end, comes a beginning. New leadership, new goals, new ideas. Some are happy. Some are guardedly optimistic. Some are angry. And some are fearful.
One of the questions I hear most from moms on all sides of the spectrum is, “What do I tell my kids about this election?” It’s a valid question no matter who you supported. What DO we tell our kids about an election season that left all of us weary? What message do we send our kids about how we might respond to the change in leadership, regardless of our political leanings?
Although not all will agree on the outcome of this election, or any, I think there is some common ground to be found as parents. One thing I believe to be true is that regardless of our political leaning, we all have a goal to make a better life for our children and grandchildren. We certainly don’t always agree with the means to getting there. Sometimes we don’t even agree on what a better life really looks like. Is it economic freedom? Social justice? The promotion of individual liberties? National security? Ideally it would be all of those things, but unfortunately they never seem to come all in the same package.
But while we may not be able to get all we want politically, we as parents have a unique and amazing power to influence the world collectively by raising great kids. Great kids become responsible adults and influence the world in ways that are far more powerful than any one vote could ever be. So what DO we tell our kids about this election that will promote that end? In this writer’s opinion, here’s a start.
If we aren’t actively shaping our lives and world, we may not get what we want. Democrats didn’t get what they wanted this time. But many Republicans didn’t either. Many Democrats and Republicans reluctantly cast a vote for a candidate who was not their first choice. A great percentage felt so disenfranchised that they didn’t vote at all. So where’s the lesson in that? In politics and in life, if we want to have better options, we have to be more involved! We have to begin to create the future we want NOW. We cannot wait until we are only left with choices that we can live with. Whether it is choosing a career or a spouse or a candidate, being proactive about creating a life and a world you love is an active, lifelong pursuit that begins by taking action.
People will disappoint us and integrity matters. Throughout this election season, we learned things through tapes and emails and scandals and reports that we almost wish we didn’t know. In this day, technology is everywhere and almost nothing is private. That brings to mind the old adage, “Integrity is who you are when you think no one is looking.” The problem is, today everyone is looking! I believe there are two great lessons there. First, people will disappoint us and we have to understand that. We are all human. And few of us would be proud to have our every word, thought, email or transaction displayed. For people of faith it is a reminder that our hope is in God, not people. But for anyone, it is also a reminder that forgiveness is an absolute necessity for us to have personal relationships of any lasting quality.
Second, it is a reminder that integrity always matters! We can remind our children that there is no secret email communication. There is no truly private setting on social media. There is no such thing as “locker room talk.” What we do, say, post or communicate is a reflection of who we are, no matter the medium or setting. We need to teach our children to be a person that demonstrates integrity at all times.
No leader, law or government can ever stop you from doing good. Throughout the political season I’ve heard sentiments from both sides of the aisle, expressing fear that the outcome would determine the kind of world we live in. That Supreme Court nominees could prevent people of faith from being able to practice that faith. Or that aggressive national security policies might prevent Americans from doing good for individuals around the world who are suffering. But what we can unequivocally tell our children is this: no policy can ever prevent you from worshiping your God. No law can ever keep you from serving or ministering or donating to those less fortunate. No leader can ever make you racist or bigoted or prevent you from loving those who look differently than you.
Yes, a president, a congress and a Supreme Court can have an influence on the overall climate of faith, and philanthropy and inclusion. But in the end, the actions of individuals will determine what kind of country we live in. No one can stop you from spending your time, money, energy and talents on those who need it. No one can stop you from LOVING, truly loving those who are different from you. No one can prevent you from reaching out to a neighbor of a different skin color and finding the commonalities that so far outweigh the differences.
Finally, sometimes we need to get away from media and instead, engage the world around us. When I look at news media or social media, it is depressing. I would be led to believe that black people hate me because I am white. I would be led to believe that my friends with conservative views cannot get along with my friends with liberal views. I would be led to believe that the sky is literally falling. And for my kids, who are young and inexperienced, it would be easy for them to see this as an all-inclusive picture of the world.
But when I took my white three-year-old, Lauren, out with me this week, she approached a black toddler named Harlem and asked her mom, “Can I hug her?” And her mom and I laughed with soft eyes at how innocent these girls still are. We chatted for a while about motherhood and preschool and the challenges of parenting. No one was guarded or on offense. We were just moms. And these interactions happen every day in your city and in mine.
I think when we are able to get our faces out of the screens, we are able to escape the narratives that sell ratings and begin to not only see the world for what it is, but to actually shape it. That’s not to say we don’t have challenges or that hate does not exist. But there is so much good in the world and there can be more if we are willing to make it. To do that, we have to get out in the world and model what that looks like for our kids. Or maybe even just get out of the way and let preschoolers like Lauren and Harlem lead the way.